‘Institutional murder’: APPSC urges IIT Bombay to investigate student’s death, submit public report

IIT Bombay first-year BTech student, Darshan Solanki died by suicide by jumping off the seventh floor og hostel building.

‘Institutional murder’: APPSC urges IIT Bombay to investigate student’s death, submit public report Condolence meeting for IIT Bombay student (Source: Official statement)
Vagisha Kaushik | Feb 13, 2023 - 4:29 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) termed the death of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay BTech student an "institutional murder" and demanded the institute to investigate the death of a BTech student and a report in public domain. First year engineering student, Darshan Solanki, allegedly died by suicide by jumping off the seventh floor of a hostel building located on the institute’s campus on Sunday.

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According to the study circle, it was only after pressure from the student community, that the director called for a condolence meeting for Darshan Solanki on the night of February 12. The email from the director, informing about the incident, did not even name the student, “the apathy of the institute even in the light of this grave incident is lost on the student community,” it said.

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APPSC mourned the death of the student and pointed towards the caste discrimination in IITs. “The family and community of the young man would forever wonder what went wrong with their bright child and a premier institute. There will be explanations of how he could not survive the competition, that the academic pressure is ruthless, and the IIT-dream is only for the strong-willed. We do not know what pushed him to this end: caste discrimination or unendurable stress. What we know for sure is this is an institutional issue. Let us stop looking at student suicides across campuses as isolated incidents,” said the organisation.

Caste discrimination in IITs

The circle said that this fact is not hidden that students from the SC, ST community face harassment and discrimination on the campus from students, faculties, and employees which causes mental and psychological stress on students. But, IITs lack any mechanisms to help them, it said.

The circle has been raising the issue of lack of mental health support for such students and said that in its earlier complaint, it had pointed out that the counselors in IIT Bombay are not sensitized to understand the social realities of caste that affect such students, rendering them inadequate to offer support or, at times, aggravating students' troubles. It also complained that there is no SC/ST counselor in the Student Wellness Centre (SWC).

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“Despite these efforts from our side, the institute has only been choosing to either ignore the issue or downplay it. In the light of this tragic incident, we demand that the working of the SWC in the institute should be thoroughly reviewed again, the institute should immediately address the issue of inclusivity in the SWC and the center should be made better accessible to the students coming from all backgrounds,” it said.

APPSC referred to the suicide of Aniket Ambhore, another BTech student belonging to SC category, in September 2014 and alleged that he had faced derogatory remarks about his academic ability. The committee constituted to investigate his death accepted that Aniket was made to feel guilty about being admitted to the institute through reservations. It also recommended setting up of a Diversity cell, campus sensitisation about caste based discrimination, support systems, counseling, and more representation in the mentorship program for SC/ST students, encouraging more students from the SC/ST communities to pursue academics in order to improve the representation of these communities in the pool of the faculty members, etc.

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“Even after so many years, the report of this officially constituted committee was never made public and many of its recommendations have never got consideration. While we have our reservations about the report of this committee, we demand that it should be put in the public domain and should be made open for more deliberations,” the study circle demanded.

While an SC, ST cell was formed in the institute, the organisation sees no other reason but an intention of keeping the cell as a hollow show-piece structure, behind the delay in passing the mandate which described its powers.

The study circle also complained about the lack of representation of SC, ST faculty members in IIT Bombay. “We submit that the blatant violation of reservation norms in faculty recruitment, delay in implementation and functioning of SC/ST cell, the lack of proper mental health and academic support are some of the major structural factors that cause such incidents to happen,” APPSC added.

APPSC called the suicide an “institutional murder” and said that everyones owes responsibility towards his family. “As a society, as an institution, what do we enable and celebrate, and therefore, what do we sideline and marginalize? How many more Darshans and Anikets need to die?,” it further said.

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